Dark Times #4 (Republic #87)
The Path to Nowhere Part 4 (of 5)
Story: Welles Hartley
Script: Mick Harrison
Art: Douglas Wheatley
Coloring: Ronda Pattison
Lettering: Michael Heisler
Cover: Douglas Wheatley
Reviewed by: JF Boivin (12/25/2007)
After learning that Boomo Greenbark's daughter Resa was taken away by slavers, and his wife Mesa had been killed defending her, Dass Jennir decides to help his Nosaurian friend. While the crew of the Uhumele wait for him at the spaceport, Jennir does some investigation and discovers the identity of the slaver who took Resa: Osro Meeto. He then infiltrates the Chagrian's apartment and convinces him to reveal who he sold her to. Jennir then makes a hard decision, and kills the Chagrian in order to prevent him from alerting his client. Running from Meeto's guards, Jennir races back to the Uhumele which takes off immediately to Esseles, the location of Dezono Qua and possibly Rena.
Like most of the series so far, this issue moves at a fast pace with a lot of information provided through the art. Jennir himself doesn't waste any time and decides to look into Resa's whereabouts right after finding out she was recently taken away from the other Nosaurian slaves. Jennir has to make a lot of tough choices in this issue. The first one is to have his friend Bomo Greenbark physically restrained by the crew of the Uhumele to avoid him doing anything rash. After all, the Nosaurian just learned that his wife was killed and his daughter sold as a slave. Then the Jedi has to decide what to do with the other Nosaurian slaves. Left alone with them, they plead with him to at least open their cage and give them a chance to fight back. Visibly struggling, Jennir explains to them (and himself) that they have a better chance of surviving as slaves than on the streets of Orvax IV, a planet of slavers who don't like to see their property escape.
After a short scene aboard the Uhumele showing that Captain Schurk-Heren is determined to detain Bomo and wait for Jennir, we see more of the Jedi's solo quest. The next scene shows him climbing the outside a tall apartment building towards his target, which is revealed to be Orso Meeto in the narrative. Apparently, Jennir put a lot of work in finding the location of the slaver and the time he would be there, but this is wisely left off-panel to go straight to the outcome. Jennir stealthily enters through the balcony door and catches the Chagrian totally off-guard. And the despicable being doesn't do much to help himself as a blaster is traned on him. Instead of pleading for his life, he immediately confirms that he did sell Resa (not the first or the last youngling he sold as a slave) and he remembers that his guards had to kill the mother, and even resorts to insulting her. Perhaps he felts that Jennir was an uncaring mercenary hired to find the slave. Big mistake! Jennir does find out to whom Resa was sold, but he is now placed before the toughest decision so far, one that could change his life forever: with the Chagrian helpless before him and his guards right outside the door, how can Jennir prevent the slaver from alerting Resa's new owner that a visitor is coming?
The most effective and expedient way is to put a blaster bolt right between Meeso's eyes. Only then, at the end, did Meeso plead for his life as he realized what the long-haired Human was intending to do. The moments that follow seem to be told in a haze, with Jennir almost feeling numb and uncaring after what he has done. Running on pure instinct, Jennir escapes from the balcony after tying himself to a rope, somehow avoiding the guards' shots. Jennir tumbles down dozens of floors and into a swimming pool in another building, and then uses his Jedi stealth to escape the guards and get back to the spaceport. His crewmates are all impressed with his accomplishment, and Bomo is especially thankful, not knowing what the Jedi had really gone through. Jennir takes some time alone to reflect, and figures that what he did was for the greater good. He had not only given the crew a new purpose, he had also stopped an admitted slaver from selling any more children as slaves. But was it worth betraying his Jedi values? One might say that it is the noblest act to give up one's beliefs in order to save another's life.
The Uhumele is heading towards Esseles where the Chagrian revealed his regular customer who bought Bomo's daughter resides, and also towards the last part of the story. This issue also has a two-page interlude aboard the Star Destroyer Exactor, where Clone Commanders Appo and Vill are discussing the events of issue #2, revealing that the V-Wing that Jennir stole was from the 203rd legion but not why the 501st has two commanders. The only explanation I see is that Vill is leading the 203rd, a squadron of V-Wing fighters just assigned to the Exactor, and he does in fact report that "the last of the Nimbus fighters are queued for docking" (feel free to e-mail me if I'm wrong on this). Darth Vader is also aboard the ship, heading towards the events of the novel Dark Lord. This issue keeps up with the previous ones in terms of quality. It is straight and to-the-point, taking the time to explore a lot of the main characters' emotions, and throwing in a bit of action, drama, and Darth Vader!
Once again, the cover depicts the best action scene from the story, and also serves as a great "missing panel". Wheatley's art is again incredible, and I completely appreciate the fact that the editors at Dark Horse decided to keep him as the artist despit the long delays. Trust me, it is worth it and will make a way better trade collection having the same artist throughout. My only complaint is that Wheatley won't be illustrating the next story arc, but editor Randy Stradley assures us in the letters column that the artist will be back for the arc starting with issue #11.
How can I describe Wheatley's work (let's not forget Ronda Pattison's beautiful enhancing colors as well) and do it justice? All the characters, alien or otherwise, look extremely realistic without feeling like they are copied from existing photo references or based on live models (not that there's anything wrong with that, mind you). The facial expressions are also very life-like, and it's especially important in this issue. The looks of pain and anger really show in Bomo Greenbark, and we see a lot of Jennir's internal struggles though his eyes. The first good example of this is on page 3, as Jennir appears in total shock when Ratty whispers "May the Force be with you..." to him. Heck, the artist even manages to make a bathing Duro female look sexy (on page 16). This issue also has another great example of a wide vista on page 8, the bottom panel showing an incredible amount of details in the architecture and background individuals of the spaceport. It's the rare type of art where I keep going through the pages and look for all the small details. Wheatley really makes the Star Wars galaxy feel populated and lived-in.
The story is keeping a good pace, and the art quality is superior to any other current series.
Rating: 9 / 10 Highly Recommended